Left Side, Strong Side

You know the moment in sports movies when the hair stands up on your arms and a bolt of adrenaline surges through your body?  For most people, this takes place at the end of the movie once the sports team or main character win the big trophy or championship. This moment isn’t the same for everyone. For us, a mere one minute and forty second scene in the first half of Remember the Titans is what gets us, EVERY. TIME.

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Action: Gerry Bertier, the captain, yells at his teammate Ray, the lineman, about missing a block on purpose so that the ball carrier gets tackled. On the very next play, Julius Campbell, another lead player, makes a great tackle and proceeds to playfully taunt Petey, who he tackled. THEN… arguably the most iconic moment in sports movie history occurs: Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell, who have had nothing but conflict with each other up to this point, begin to playfully shove each other with one yelling “Left side!” and the other one yelling “Strong Side!”. Cut Scene.

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Why is this so iconic? Overall, this clip was the first display of true teamwork on the Titans team between two races who had an ongoing battle throughout the movie and that period of time in history. This movie wasn’t completely about the segregation taking place, it was about how a group of high school athletes came together, despite what others thought, and became a brotherhood. In another context, this clip shows how two teammates set aside their differences and declared that no matter the weakness or shortcoming, I will always be your strong side. This “left side, strong side” concept has become a staple exchange between us when we send each other letters, good luck texts, or pump up speeches.

So you may be wondering what it looks like to be the “strong side” for a team when you aren’t the star player – because if there is a strong side, there has to be a weak side, right? To get a better idea, let’s focus on the running back, Petey, for a second. He was supposed to set records and be one of the best in the state; however, after finding out that he couldn’t hold on to the ball, Coach Boone wrote him off as a weak player. Most people would be extremely discouraged at this point but the beauty in this moment was how resilient Petey was for the betterment of the team. After getting benched, Coach Yoast took Petey aside and asked him to join his defense in the backfield as a Cornerback. When he was put in the game at his new position, he succeeded and easily beat out the starting corner. Petey failed at what he was supposed to be great at, but he was given the opportunity to help the team in a different role and he achieved above and beyond what anyone thought possible. Being able to step into any role or position assigned to you is a game changer. This is what set the Titans apart in every practice, game, or championship title. They refused to neglect the weak side. Instead, they attacked their weak side at all angles and in every scenario leaving only strength and the consistent pursuit for perfection. THAT is why we remember the Titans.

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“Teamwork” is something you should strive to be great at for the rest of your life. Today the concept of “teamwork” and “being a good teammate” is unfortunately getting left in the dust of a single player’s ego. Rather than recognizing the team, we are idolizing individuals. Superiority trumps humility in the eyes of viewers, but we cannot let the art of teamwork die. It should be viewed as an art because when you have collaborative teamwork, your group of individuals turns into a unit; it’s a miraculous metamorphosis – a piece of art. Learning to work as a unit is by far the greatest takeaway sports have to offer, and we believe the Titans are the best representation of that.  

An incredibly brave and inspirational young man, Mattie Stepanek, said, “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved”. Let’s take away the individual agendas, the glamour, the hype, and all of the unnecessary aspects sports have accumulated over time. What’s left? One team, one unit, one goal, one outcome, and it’s up to the team, as a unit, to decide who walks away with the strongest side.

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